Dukey’s Diaries: The bumpy journey across the sea to Cheltenham

While the Irish travelling legions have been taking planes, trains and automobiles to get to Prestbury Park, our man Brendan has taken to the sea…


The omens do not bode well. I write to you from a broiling Irish Sea.

The WiFi connection currently holding fast. My breakfast didn’t last as long. There have been some positive signs over the past couple of days but they were outnumbered.

I will detail the bad news first and finish with something positive.

A leisurely brunch with my mother yesterday was cruelly interrupted with the news that Dingo Dollar wouldn’t be taking up his engagement in the Ultima Handicap Chase on Tuesday. That didn’t help the digestion…

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Having regained my composure, I headed out to watch Tiger Woods’ comeback victory over a couple of pints and that didn’t happen either. Late heroics weren’t quite enough to haul in Paul Casey.

In keeping with the general tone of this piece though it wasn’t all bad. My sporting hero appears in rude health.

With two of his favourite courses on the horizon, Bay Hill and Augusta, a win looks imminent.

What a glorious day that will be. Tiger is a contemporary of mine. Well in terms of age ,if nothing else. I was sure we both had a fine future behind us. Any victory for the great one would be a cause for great optimism!

Today began early. To get my ferry to the promised land I rose pre-dawn. Mercifully, I rarely get the chance to witness this evocative event – blew my latest chance too. It was definitely dark when I got up, but by the time I looked out the window over my cereal it was light.

It’s easy to imagine that along with the amount of poetry written about that time, most alien abductions probably occur around then. So, easy to lose time.

The Dart journey to meet my travelling companion wasn’t without it’s difficulties either. The train was surprisingly busy at that hour. Having taken my seat opposite two Eastern European women deep in conversation the flashbacks began.

Always happens when I hear those accents. I cycled to work for my previous job.

Shower facilities were kindly provided.

One day while drying off a cleaning lady of Slavic extraction burst in. She quickly realised her changing room faux pas.

Still, on a bitterly cold August day may I add, she couldn’t help adding insult to injury by bursting out laughing as she backed away. Really could have done without the reminder today, but crossing my legs and donning headphones took the edge off.

Now the good news, we are just about to arrive in Hollyhead. This ferry is swift by name and nature.

How they missed calling in Jonathan though is completely beyond me. They sell a packet of cigarettes for €7.80 on board. A saving of over 33%. Hopefully not the only value shout I make this week.

The overriding positive of course is that Cheltenham starts tomorrow. Judging by the reading material on show plenty of my fellow passengers are Prestbury bound. Better to journey in hope than to arrive.

Such an exciting time. Best of luck to one and all!

Brendan Duke’s Day One selections

1.30pm: Claimantakinforgan may be worth forgiven for his last effort. Nicky Henderson will likely have him primed for a big effort.
2.10pm: It’s folly to oppose Footpad. His exceptional jumping and proven stamina should prove good enough here.
2.50pm: Shantou Flyer likes the course and conditions, will hold few terrors. He’s a sporting each-way bet.
3.30pm: Buveur Dair will win!
4.10pm: Apples Jade (see Buveur Dair).
4.50pm: Duel At Dawn. He will be staying on when, most have cried enough.
5.30pm: Rather Be should be competitive here.

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